The Somalis of Kenya: A Deep State Within a State


Kenya’s ethnic Somalis are not just ordinary citizens; rather, they are the true rulers in the shadows of the Kenyan government. A ‘Deep State’ is a term generally used to refer to a state within a state which can lie hidden below the surface of a complicated and ambiguous power structure.

When it comes to Kenya, the ethnic Somalis are a deep state due to their immense presence within the government and the hold they have on power in the country.

There have been sweeping changes in Kenyan politics with appointments of ethnic Somalis to key positions in government. From the elevation of Aden Bare Duale as Kenya’s current Defence Minister, to the appointment of Hussein Mohammed as the President’s Head of Communications and State House Spokesperson, to Noordin Mohamed Haji as Director-General of Kenya’s National Intelligence Service and to the recent nomination of Noor Gabow as Kenya’s Inspector-General of Police (IGP) – Kenyan President William Ruto has made significant strides to integrate ethnic Somalis into mainstream Kenyan politics. These appointments demonstrate both the hope and potential for the integration of ethnic Somalis into Kenyan affairs and also how pluralistic Kenyan politics has become.

The Somalis of Kenya: A Deep State Within a State
The Somalis of Kenya: A Deep State Within a State.

The integration of ethnic Somalis in a leading role in Kenya’s political power structure has been a gradual process. After the authoritarian rule of Daniel Arap Moi in the late 1990s, many of the ethnic Somalis were able to land top positions in the government, growing their presence as well as their impact.

In recent years, this ethnic domination in the political sphere has become entrenched and indestructible, with the Somalis representing more and more interests in Kenya.

The influence of Kenya’s ethnic Somalis go beyond their powerful and prominent roles in the government. They have seen a huge rise in business, with businesses run by Somalis dominating a large chunk of Kenya’s economy. They have bought extensive properties and land, investing in lucrative business ventures. All of this has contributed to an overwhelming presence by the ethnic Somalis in Kenya, making them something more like a ‘deep state’ than a mere community.

One of the main impediments preventing full integration has been the language barrier. While many Somalis are well-versed in the Somali language, many lack fluency in either English or Swahili – both official languages of the country. The result has been an unwillingness by many Somalis to participate in politics due to the language barrier and lack of political access. As such, the appointment of prominent ethnic Somalis to high-profile roles in the Kenyan government could be considered a breakthrough in the larger process of integration.

The recent surge in appointments of ethnic Somalis is a positive development, not only in terms of its symbolic importance or contribution to boost the representation of Somalis in government but also in boosting their political access. These appointments demonstrate President William Ruto’s commitment to respecting diversity and encouraging the inclusion of all Kenyans, regardless of their ethnicity – a first in Kenya’s history.

Kenya’s Policy of Inclusive State-Building

The Somalis of Kenya: A Deep State Within a State
The Somalis of Kenya: A Deep State Within a State.

For over three decades Kenya has been utilising a deliberate policy of inclusive state-building. This policy has been integral in providing the nation stability, considerable success and has been the key driving force in the advancement of the nation’s needs.

The policy has had a dramatic effect on the nation’s minorities, both politically and socially. One example of this is the ethnic Somalis whose minority status has grown substantially over the last 30 years to a point where they are now an accepted, mainstream component of the nation’s identity by the wider population. As a result of their acceptance, it is also no surprise to see them being promoted in some of the nation’s most important and strategic top jobs.

The history of the ethnic Somalis is an example of the progression of the nation’s growing diversity. This change began in 1975 when the Prime Minister of Kenya had held the country’s first National Conference of Ethnic Somali Leaders. This was a significant milestone in the effort to include Somalis into the government and allow for their voices to be heard. A convention was hosted by Somali leaders in 1977 which allowed for more integration into the Kenyan government.

In 1993, a constitutional amendment was passed that passed more rights and allowed Somalis to be more represented in the nation’s politics. Article 29 of the Constitution provided equal rights and opportunities to all citizens, regardless of their ethnic background. This was a significant step in ensuring the inclusiveness of the nation, regardless of heritage.

The policy of inclusive state-building has been credited to the work of some of the nation’s most influential politicians and public figures, such as former President, Daniel Arap Moi, who continuously supported and influenced the policy of inclusion.

In addition to the efforts of the nation’s politicians, civil society, journalists and activists have also played a critical role in amplifying the voices of the nation’s minorities. Through their activism and dedication, the rights of minority groups have been safeguarded and minority voices have been heard.

Ericson Mangoli
Ericson Mangoli is the founder and Managing Editor of Who Owns Africa, a platform for African journalism that focuses on politics, governance, and business. With a passion for truth and a dedication to highlighting pressing issues in Africa, Mangoli has become a significant voice in the field. He embarked on this journey after graduating with a degree in communications and realizing his true calling was in investigative reporting and shedding light on untold stories.  Who Owns Africa provides thought-provoking articles, in-depth analyses, and incisive commentary to help people understand the complexities of the region. Mangoli is committed to impartiality and ethical reporting, setting high standards for his team. His vision for the platform is to foster critical thinking and promote informed discussions that have a positive impact on African society. Mangoli is known for his eloquent and insightful writing which tackles pressing issues in Africa. His articles cover a range of topics including political corruption, economic development, fostering international partnerships, and African governance. He sheds light on the complexities of these subjects and empowers readers to engage in conversations for positive change. Mangoli's coverage of African politics analyzes the factors that drive change and hinder progress, while his reporting on governance advocates for stronger institutions and policies. Additionally, he explores the challenges and opportunities facing African businesses and inspires readers to contribute to Africa's economic growth.


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